Sometimes it pays to be a little ‘difficult’

The world’s first and only white MCC made from red pinotage grapes
The world’s first and only white MCC made from red pinotage grapes
Image: DEWALD KIRSTEN

“The D doesn’t stand for Difficult, it stands for Different — because we like to do things a bit differently,” says Deetlefs Wine Estate’s seventh-generation owner, Kobus Deetlefs.

Wine shouldn’t be difficult, he believes.

“Too often wine gets put on a pedestal, people over-complicate it and lose sight of just enjoying a wine because it’s what YOU like.”

Kobus believes it’s a stubborn streak (a bit of being difficult, a bit of being determinedly different) that has kept the family on the same farm in the Breedekloof near Rawsonville for nearly 200 years, tracking it back to their ancestor, one Johannes Deetlefs, a German soldier who was put ashore off a Dutch ship in Saldanha Bay in 1753 because, the story goes, he “was a bit difficult”.

The estate was established by the original Deetlefs’ grandson in 1822 and today is SA’s second-oldest wine farm continuously owned by the same family (Meerlust is the oldest).

You won’t find them in Platter’s because they stopped participating more than 10 years ago, believing the sighted tastings make the system unfair.

About 75% of their wine is exported, with local supplies mostly sold to private customers, so it’s not surprising that Deetlefs is a slightly unfamiliar brand in these parts.

A recent cyber-tasting with Kobus, however, has put Deetlefs firmly on my “must explore more” list.

Focusing on their specialities of chenin blanc and pinotage, we tasted three of each, an interesting exploration of the versatility of both grapes — each trio having some “family similarity” but also differences in weight, texture and flavour.

The unoaked Stonecross Chenin Blanc (from their great-value entry range, all at R69-R75) is light in style, fruity, fresh and alive with lemon zest, a touch of Sémillon the “glue to bring it together”.

The Estate Chenin Blanc (R120) is similarly rounded out with Sémillon and viognier, the additional varietals like seasoning, says Kobus — “it’s like classical music, if even that little piccolo is absent, you will notice it”.

The oak is subtle, the wine soft with peaches, yellow fruit, a touch of tropical, while the Reserve Chenin Blanc (R195) is deep and rich, showing its old-vine pedigree and 10 months matured on the lees in barrels.

It is a superb wine, complex with depth of flavour and creamy texture but not heavy — a touch of butterscotch on intensely fragrant nose, fruit on the palate leaning more towards sour apricot, zesty pineapple, complemented by gentle oak spiciness.

Then, for something completely different, the world’s first and only white Methode Cap Classique (MCC) made from pinotage grapes.

A really lovely bubbly (R275), and not just because it’s a novelty — typical MCC baked apples and lime zest meet raspberries and cherries on the nose, the wine is lively on the tongue with sweet-sour fruit, subtle yeasty depth, a lingering cleanly fruity finish.

Interestingly, a saline-savouriness in the MCC carries through in the other expressions of pinotage.

The fresh and fruity Stonecross Pinotage Rosé is lifted above your average fruit basket pink wine with subtle candyfloss, Turkish delight and a distinctive dry, spicy finish.

A grand finale in the Estate Pinotage (R185) — rich, plummy and velvety, with florals, subtle earthiness and some warm spice, a deliciously savoury streak. Pinotage as it should be.

Order online (www.wineshop.deetlefs.com) before the alcohol lockdown is lifted and get 20% off all wines, free delivery and, unlike most other wineries, they’ll gladly make up a mixed case to your personal selection.

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